J. Tomilson Hill to Chair Guggenheim Board; Claudia Rankine Joins as Trustee

October 6th, 2021

Billionaire hedge fund manager J. Tomilson Hill has been named chair of the Solomon R. Guggeneheim Museum’s board of trustees, and poet, essayist, and playwright Claudia Rankine has been elected to join the board as a trustee, the New York Timesreports. Rankine is the second Black woman to serve on the board in the New York institution’s eighty-two-year history, after photographer Jane Moutoussamy-Ashe, the widow of tennis great Arthur Ashe, who was a trustee from 1993 to 1994.

Hill, described by Dealbreaker as “the Ryan Seacrest of the quant scene,” chairs the private investment business at $58 billion hedge fund Two Sigma, and—alongside his wife, Janine—an avid art collector. In 2014, a group of Renaissance and Baroque bronzes owned by Hill were the subject of an exhibition at New York’s Frick Collection; in 2019, the Hills established the Hill Art Foundation near the city’s High Line. Hill is also a former vice chairman of private equity firm Blackstone Group. During his 2007–18 tenure in this role, the firm faced allegations that it had invested in companies connected with the destruction of the Amazon rain forest. In 2019, a year after Hill’s departure, the United Nations accused Blackstone of taking advantage of the subprime mortgage disaster of 2008 and helping to create the global housing crisis, which the firm denied doing. Hill replaces longtime chair William Mack, who will serve as chairman emeritus.

The Kingston, Jamaica–born Rankine, a much-decorated poet, is Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University. Her 2014 book-length poem Citizen: An American Lyric, won numerous awards and is to date the only volume of poetry to become a New York Times nonfiction bestseller. Rankine is the founder of the Racial Imaginary Institute, which she established in 2017 using funds from a MacArthur Grant she received the previous year. The interdisciplinary collective’s goal is to serve as a “a cultural laboratory in which the racial imaginaries of our time and place are engaged, read, countered, contextualized and demystified.”

The Guggenheim has endured a turbulent two years in which the museum was rocked by allegations of institutional racism and beset by labor woes, with leadership struggling to address both problems. One group of museum workers successfully unionized earlier this year, while another is seeking to do so. In August 2020, the Guggenheim revealed a new diversity plan, and earlier this summer, the institution announced the appointment of Naomi Beckwith as deputy director and chief curator. Beckwith is the first Black woman to occupy the roles at the museum.

Speaking with the Times, Hill said that the Guggenheim would continue to push hard to become more inclusive. “We’re going to increase the frequency of artists who are diverse,” he promised, adding that the museum would also show artists who are less well known.